Loudoun County Atlasers,
‘Tis the season for Christmas Bird Counts (and holiday cheer, too!) The Central Loudoun CBC will be held Wed. Dec 28 and the Calmes Neck CBC (covering far western Loudoun) will be held Mon. Jan 2. These counts are a great way to collect data for the atlas (report those owls!) and contribute to a better understanding of bird populations and dynamics across the country. Please contact Joe Coleman (email@example.com) if you’re interested in helping with either count. If you’re pressed for time, send me your data and I’ll be happy to enter it into the atlas database for you. A map of the count circle overlaid on the atlas grid is available upon request.
November Highlights – A great month for raptors and birds in general – such wonderful gifts from Mother Nature!
1. Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle observed at the Snickers Gap Hawkwatch (Bluemont 1). Golden Eagles were also reported at the Blue Ridge Center and soaring from Lincoln 4 to Lincoln 5.
2. One lucky atlaser in the Poolesville 3 block was treated to nice views of a Peregrine Falcon wreaking havoc on a large group of Starlings and Red-winged Blackbirds, unsuccessful in securing a tasty meal. Gray-cheeked Thrush also observed in this block.
3. Loggerhead Shrike observed in Waterford 2, Bluemont 4, and Banshee Reeks (Leesburg 5). Wow!
4. Snow Goose observed in the Purcellville area.
5. Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Horned Lark, and American Tree Sparrow reported for the Poolesville/Waterford area (along with great views of 2 coyotes!). 6. Very late Swainson’s Thrush heard and observed at the Blue Ridge Center.
Species of the Month – December has gone to the ducks! Did you know……?
• An adult Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis) may pretend to be dead (immobile with head extended, eyes open, and wings held close to body) when grasped by a red fox.
• Gulls of various species often follow flocks of foraging Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser). The gulls wait for the ducks to come to the surface with fish, and then try to steal their prey. Occasionally even a Bald Eagle will try to steal a fish from a successful merganser.
• A female Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) often lays eggs in the nest of another female. She also lays eggs in nests of other species, such as Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers (Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers often lay in the goldeneye’s nest too). Some females abandon their broods soon after hatching, and the young will join another female’s brood. Such mixed broods, known as “creches,” may also occur when a female loses some ducklings after a territorial fight with another female.
Information taken from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” (various online species accounts).
72 atlasers have spent 3,285 hours in the field documenting 36,415 sightings. You have recorded 236 species, with 100 of these species having a confirmed nesting status. Field cards have been reported for 46 blocks and 12 blocks are considered complete (though sightings can still be reported).
Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Loudoun County Bird Atlas Coordinator